Alison Goldsworthy writes on how the public engage with Welsh politics
Just how much engagement is there between people in Wales, the Welsh Government and the National Assembly? Innovations such as the public petitions committee are ones that have now been adopted in Westminster. However the mass campaigns seen aimed at politicians in Westminster are far from commonplace.
Think about the engagement on the proposals to change ownership of woodlands, or on restructuring the NHS. NGO’s and other groups can mobilises hundreds or thousands, and occasionally millions to support their cause.
Of course absolute numbers don’t take account of population differences, but even when accounting for that, engagement with the Assembly is less than Westminster.
Tom Baker, who runs the thoughtful campaigner blog first conducted this exercise as a way to benchmark campaign success. Credit for the idea must go to him, and he acknowledges its limitations on his website.
We picked five issues where we thought people in Wales would be well engaged and conducted a similar exercise. Aside from highlighting the limits of FOI (two departments said they didn’t hold the data, whilst others did) it showed that fewer than 100 items of communication were received by the Government on the subject of wind farms or higher education fees. Between May 2010 and May 2011, these issues were receiving considerable coverage in the press and civil society.
By contrast the Badger Cull engaged people well, with over 14,000 items of communications being received by the Welsh Government.
|Issue||Number of items of correspondence||Further info|
|Top up Fees||79|| I can confirm that the Department only received 79 communications from 1st May 2010 to 1st May 2011 on higher education university fees.To clarify your other queries:
I can also confirm that no petitions on this subject were received during the time period you specified.
With regard to multiple copies of the same correspondence, where several Ministers are sent identical items of correspondence from the same person, the Welsh Government’s central correspondence processing team allocate only one identifying number to it, and send it to the office of the Minister within whose portfolio it most appropriately sits. This is because only one reply, on behalf of all Ministers, will be issued to the correspondent.
|Wind farm development||71||The total number of written communications relating to wind farm developmentreceived by the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development from 1st May2010 to 1st May 2011 was 71.|
|Badger Cull||14,146||During the period 1 May 2010 to 1 May 2011, the Welsh Government received a totalof 14,146 letters/emails concerning badger culling. This includes the responses to aconsultation on the Badger (Control Area) (Wales) Order 2011 which attracted 13,431responses.In relation to campaigns and petitions, the Welsh Government does not hold data onthe number received specifically during the period 1 May 2010 to 1 May 2011|
|Supporting move to opt out organ donation||N/A||The total number of communications received from 1st May 2010 to 1st May 2011relating to:• Supporting a move to opt out organ donation (ATISN 5248);• The banning of under 19’s from using tanning beds (ATISN 5269);
We do not hold the information you have requested. The Welsh Government does not as a
matter of course keep a running total regarding every item of communication it receives in any stated policy area.
|Banning under 18’s using tanning beds||N/A|
By contrast in Westminster here are some of the top issues
|Issue||Organisaiton supporting||Number of communications||Adjusted number of communications|
|Millennium Development Goals||Tearfund||28,001||1,680|
|Talk Taps and Toilets||Wateraid/Teafund||55,074||3,304|
|Don’t cut life from our countryside||RSPB||53,147||3,188|
|Europe: Trees not Tricks||Avazz.org||24,286||1,457|
The final column, adjusted number of communications hypothecates the number of communications there would be on an issues adjusted for Welsh population, that is 6% of the total. Of course, some communication is counted just once, when there can be many copies of it, for example with a petition. Nonetheless, this research suggests that organisations, governments and individuals have work to do to be as engaged as Westminster, and I’d rather hope the Welsh Government and the National Assembly would strive to be the best, not just better.